Google Book Settlement Hearing Postponed

Posted on September 22, 2009

As expected, the October 7 hearing in the Google Book Settlement case is going to be postponed so that Google can revise the settlement agreement to the Justice Department's satisfaction. Publisher's Weekly reports:

The parties in the Google Book Search Settlement have asked the court to adjourn the scheduled October 7th fairness hearing, telling the court the parties intend to amend the deal. "Because the parties, after consultation with the DOJ, have determined that the Settlement Agreement that was approved preliminarily in November 2008 will be amended, plaintiffs respectfully submit that the Fairness Hearing should not be held, as scheduled, on October 7," reads a memorandum appended to the parties motion to adjourn. "To continue on the current schedule would put the Court in a position of reviewing and having participants at the hearing speak to the original Settlement Agreement, which will not be the subject of a motion for final approval." The court is expected to grant the motion.

The memorandum notes that the parties met with senior DOJ officials on September 17, one day before the DOJ filed its brief with the court outlining a range of concerns with the current settlement agreement. "Of key importance is that the U.S. Statement of Interest confirmed the DOJ's reciprocal desire to work with the parties to address concerns," the memo states. "It is because the parties wish to work with the DOJ to the fullest extent possible that they have engaged, and plan to continue to engage, in negotiations in an effort to address and resolve the concerns expressed in the U.S. Statement of Interest." The parties reiterated their commitment to "rapidly advancing" discussions with the DOJ. The delay marks the second time the fairness hearing has been pushed back, the first time coming after lawyers for a group of authors led by Gail Steinbeck won a four month extension to the opt-out deadline.

The Justice Department played hardball, essentially saying to Google: revise the settlement agreement or we'll make sure it never sees the light of day. The parties asked for a status conference to talk about scheduling on November 6th which will most likely be granted by the judge. Now the parties can start revising the settlement agreement, which is not going to be an easy thing.

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